The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Bengals 2016 Week 8 showdown at Wembley Stadium in London.
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TAME THE BENGALS' TOP WEAPON
There may be no exact method to stopping Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green – at least one that hasn't been proven successful yet – but the Redskins must find a way to stop the All-Pro wide receiver on Sunday.
Since entering the league as the No. 4-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Green has given opposing defenses nightmares, as he's collected 465 receptions for 6,946 yards and 48 touchdowns.
This season has already gotten off to a bang for the University of Georgia product, as he's caught 50 passes for 775 yards and three touchdowns.
In all three of the Bengals' wins this season, Green has collected as least eight receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown. In Cincinnati's four losses he's been held under 100 yards.
If active, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said he'll just"play his style of game." That's certainly worked for the 2015 All-Pro cornerback in recent performances.
"I think being physical, being at the point of attack, trying to take away what he likes to do," Norman said. "He's a phenomenal receiver. Shoot, best of the best – A.J. Green. I've got to say that: best of the best. We're definitely going to look forward to that matchup on the pitch, if we can go out there on it. He is definitely a formidable talent. Oh my gosh, he is. He's definitely at the top of the league in that category, at the wide receivers – at the top of his class. I'm looking forward to that matchup if we get the opportunity. I can't say enough about him, about how good that looks to me."
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden – who was Green's offensive coordinator for his first three seasons – says the defense will throw all sort of looks at him to get him off balance.
"You know, if you think we're going to play Cover 0 with man-to-man the whole time, you're going be really mistaken," Gruden said. "We're going to have to change up the coverages, figure out ways to beat him up a little bit at the line of scrimmage, and play a safety over the top from time to time, play a third, play somebody underneath him, and then play some man-to-man."
ADJUST TO THE DIFFERENCES
With the Redskins playing in London, the players will have to adjust their schedules to fit the five hour time difference (which will become only four hours after Daylight Savings Time occurs in England early Sunday).
With an overnight flight, the players are aware of the importance of taking advantage of the time to catch some rest. But many Washington players also used the week leading up to the game to prepare for the adjustment in their sleep schedule, just like how they practice out on the field.
"Just trying to go to bed earlier, waking up a little earlier, start to get acclimated towards it," linebacker Will Compton said on Wednesday." I know guys have been setting their alarms a little earlier just to prepare for it. Come tomorrow, Thursday, our expected nights sleep is supposed to be on the plane, because right when we land in London, in that next hour we start our whole Friday day. It's going to be pretty stressful, but it's all about managing it and being pro about it."
The Redskins will have to adjust quickly to facing less sleep than they are accustomed to and preparing for an earlier kickoff than ever before with the game beginning at 9:30 a.m. EST.
With two full days, Friday and Saturday, being spent getting adjusted and seeing the city, the players should have enough time to acclimate, but will still need to make sure to get plenty of rest. Even for several players who have participated in a London game on other NFL teams, the transition the players will experience will be a challenge
"I'm not really sure, because last time I went we stayed for a whole week, so I'm not sure how it's going to be," Donte Whitner Sr., who played in England as a member of the 49ers in 2013, said. "I'm pretty sure we're going to have to pretty much catch up some sleep on the plane. Get to London, have a quick practice and then catch up on some sleep once again. I'm not really sure how it's going to be though."
Dealing with the unexpected is part of the challenge for the team, who will be left to adjust to whatever amount of sleep and rest they can get while also trying to take in the city of London as much as possible. Doing both successfully, while, of course, putting winning the game first, is what makes the international trip a tough task of its own.
"Yeah, it's exciting. It's a great place, great tradition," head coach Jay Gruden said. "It's going to be a long trip. It's going to be historical for these players. It's going to be something they'll always remember – which is pretty cool – coaches also. It's the thought of going and flying that far and the time change and all of that is kind of a grind, but I think once we get out there and we see the history and be in London, I think they'll really enjoy it, especially if we find a way to win the game."
While everything will remain focused on bringing home a victory, there is no doubt that it will also be important for the Redskins players and coaches to take in every moment of playing overseas
"Very excited. This will be my first time ever going out of the country. That's big time for me. Just to be going over to play ball is even bigger," Chris Thompson said. "I didn't think our fan base was as big as it is. As every week goes by, you learn that there's fans all over the world that root for the Washington Redskins."
GET 'EM ON THE GROUND
After the Redskins crushed the Eagles on the ground two weeks ago, running to the tune of 230 rushing yards behind a three-headed attack, Washington couldn't replicate the performance last Sunday at Ford Field.
Yes, Chris Thompson ran for a career-high 73 yards on 12 carries, but lead back Rob Kelley struggled, as he fumbled twice while collecting just 27 yards on 10 carries.
While Jones (knee) has already been ruled out for the game, the Redskins can take advantage of a defense that is allowing nearly 120 rushing yards per contest and has given up three 20-plus-yard runs.
That starts with a stout offensive line opening up the running lanes.
"Consistent running game is a goal of ours every week, and it wasn't good enough [last week]," center Spencer Long said. We wanted more yards and more consistent yards. But we need a balanced attack each week, and hopefully we can put one together against Cincinnati."
Tackle Trent Williams, who is listed as questionable for the game with a knee injury, thinks the gameplan also won't really change any WITH/IF Kelley is asked to carry more of a load.
"Our blocking scheme, it stays the same," Williams said. "Block the guy in front of me or whoever they tell me to block. …It would kind of be hard to change up the way you block in the middle of the game. They're both talented backs and I fully expect whoever has the ball to produce."
CRANK UP THE PRESSURE
In 2013, the final season that Jay Gruden spent as Andy Dalton's offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, the quarterback finished with career highs in yards (4,293) and touchdowns (33). Gruden accepted the Redskins head coaching job in the ensuing offseason, but Dalton has continued to improve. He set new career highs last season in touchdown-to-interception ratio, yards per attempt and quarterback rating.
As part of the NFL's International Series, the Redskins will be playing in London next year. Check out photos from the Redskins' previous games outside the United States.
This season, Dalton and the Bengals have been up and down, currently sitting at 3-4 with losses to four of the best teams in the NFL: Pittsburgh, Denver, Dallas and New England. However, Dalton ranks fourth in passing yards and seventh in completion percentage. Gruden likely has some ideas on how to slow down his former pupil, but he didn't share much of them with the media Wednesday.
"Well, I think what makes every quarterback uncomfortable is pressure and putting them in tough situations – third down and long – that's the key," Gruden said. "I think if they have some weakness this year it's been their third down conversion rate. So I think to get them in third down and long will be important. And try to get pressure on them and that's the intent of every offense that we play, not just Andy. But he does a great job of keeping himself out of those situations. Their first down and second down conversion rate is pretty darn good. They're averaging I think eight yards a play and he's throwing for a ton of yards."
Most quarterbacks that lead their teams to the playoffs in each of their first five seasons – something neither Tom Brady nor Peyton Manning did – would be considered among the best. However, Dalton, who has yet to win a playoff game, remains an enigma. There's no doubt he's one of the most effective passers in the game, but the lack of a postseason win sets him apart, and not in the way he'd like. Still, Dalton boasts a career record of 53-30-1 as a starting quarterback in the NFL and he gives Gruden credit for developing him into the player he is today.
"Jay taught me a lot and he gave me a lot of freedom at the line of scrimmage," Dalton said. "You know, through the preparation that we had, if I get certain looks, he allowed me to change plays and get into plays that were better suited for the defenses that we were getting and so it taught me a lot just through the preparation of it. I feel like he's got a big part in the reason I've been playing the way I have here recently and he's got me to be the player I am today."
The Redskins' defense has been stingy of late to say the least. Washington has allowed an average of just 200 total passing yards per game over the past month and currently rank fifth in passing defense for the entire season. However, it remains to be seen if the Redskins' secondary will be at full strength as cornerbacks Josh Norman (concussion) and Bashaud Breeland (ankle) have both been limited in practice this week.